|Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Tommy Hunter||05.21.12 at 11:00 am ET|
With June fast approaching, the Red Sox have not had a winning record at any point this year.
But after losing eight of their first nine games in May, the Sox have won eight of their last 10. With a victory in Baltimore on Monday, they can move to .500.
To do so, they’ll need a major improvement from Monday’s starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz, whose 7.77 ERA is the highest of any pitcher in the majors. Incredibly, Buchholz is 4-2 on the year, largely due to his teammates averaging more than 12 runs a game in his starts, the highest average run support in the majors.
The Sox will need another team effort Monday night when they take on an Orioles squad that has won seven of its last eight games against Boston, including a three-game sweep at Fenway in early May.
Taking the mound for Baltimore is 25-year-old Tommy Hunter. Hunter is 2-2 with a 4.78 ERA, and though the Orioles are 6-2 in his starts, the massive 6-foot-3, 250-pound righty has struggled against the Sox. In his previous start against Boston, the Sox got to Hunter early and often, tagging him for eight hits and five runs in just 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. Overall, the Sox are hitting .329 in 73 at-bats against Hunter.
Baltimore enters Monday’s game atop the American League East and holds a 6½-game lead over Boston.
|Will Middlebrooks ‘shooting’ to be next Cal Ripken||05.02.12 at 7:02 pm ET|
The moment of truth finally arrived Wednesday for 23-year-old Will Middlebrooks.
The fifth round pick of the Red Sox in the 2007 entry draft was slotted into his first big league lineup as he batted eighth and played third base after Kevin Youkilis was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day with a back injury.
Growing up in Greenville, TX, he paid close attention to another superstar on the left side of the infield.
“I always watched Cal Ripken, that’s who I watched growing up,” Middlebrooks said. “He’s a great player. He played every day. That’s what I’m shooting for.”
Ripken played in 2,632 straight games. Middlebrooks was playing in his first Wednesday night.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t going to be nervous,” Middlebrooks said. “I’m just going to go out there and have fun. Just play my game and be Will Middlebrooks.
The advice of the Red Sox?
“Don’t try to be anybody else and come out here, play your game and have fun,” he said. “I’ve never really tried to compare myself to other people. I just want to be my own player and do things my own way.”
What was his first reaction when he got the call on Tuesday?
“Unbelievable. This is something you work toward your whole life so it feels really good to be here,” Middlebrooks told reporters in the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday afternoon. “I worked to be here. I was ready when they called so I’m ready to go.”
Middlebrooks batted .333 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 24 games this season for Triple-A Pawtucket before Wednesday’s call-up.
“I was having a really productive year. I thought I had a lot of positive output, not only me but my teammates. We were playing really good baseball.”
Middlebrooks was a big reason why the PawSox are off to a 16-10 start, good for a one-game lead in the North Division of the International League.
“Being able to create relationships with these guys and being able to come in here and be comfortable is huge,” said Middlebrooks of his experience with players like Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez in spring training. “Just that they were an open book and to use them. Those guys have been around and those are the guys I’m going to be talking to so I’m just going to learn as much as I can.”
Middlebrooks, whose parents were en route to Fenway for his big league debut, said he’s been preparing for this moment in his mind for quite a while.
“About 23 years so yeah, it feels great,” Middlebrooks said.
|Marlon Byrd on his turnaround: ‘Sometime you need to re-learn’ hitting||05.01.12 at 11:46 am ET|
This has been one weird season for Marlon Byrd.
The man who signed for $15 million over three years with the Cubs before the 2010 season was released by Chicago after going collecting just three hits in his first 43 at-bats this season.
The Cubs picked up the remaining $6 million on his contract and the Red Sox, desperately needing a major league outfielder with the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury, picked him up for the pro-rated major league minimum of $435,000.
Low risk, but so far high reward. The batter who was hitting .070 with the Cubs is batting .333 (10-for-30) with the Red Sox to raise his average to .178. He’s been one of the biggest beneficiaries of hitting in a lineup that produced more runs than any in baseball through the first month.
“Boys can play. Went through a rut. Had a great road trip. Came back and started off with a bang,” Byrd said. “Hitting is contagious. It’s as simple as that. I scuffled for a while over there in Chicago but coming over here, watching these guys, picking their brains, talking to [Kevin Youkilis] and little things he does has helped me. Sometimes, you need to re-learn, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan has had a huge impact on Byrd, sitting down with the talented slugger, who made the 2010 NL All-Star team with the Cubs before falling on hard times in the last 18 months.
“See the ball, hit the ball but at the same time, maybe spreading out just a little bit, making sure I get my hands back in my separation, tucking my front knee in so when I do separate, I’m not going back on my backside,” Byrd said in breaking down the mechanics of his swing. “My timing, starting it when pitcher breaks his hands so it’s not one thing. It sounds difficult but for me, it’s easy to put that all together and simply it.”
Byrd was known for his unusual leg tap and kick to trigger his swing. That’s great when it works but a huge problem when it doesn’t. What did Mags suggest?
“Mags is huge,” Byrd said after Monday’s 11-6 Red Sox win, in which he went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. “Mags just said, ‘Forget about everything you’re doing, go back to 2009, 2010, and let’s start over and go from there.’ Forget the tap step, forget the leg kick, get [front foot] down early and go to work. We just went back to the old work.”
The red-hot David Ortiz has also help Byrd by simply hitting in the same lineup.
“It’s unbelievable,” Byrd beamed. “It takes the pressure off a lot of guys when David does his thing. You don’t have to scrounge for runs. You’re not trying to get a bunt down or really try to hit a home run to get an inning going. He gets it going for us. He’s a fire-starter and that’s what he’s doing.”
Byrd had to overcome something else Monday – stepping into the same batter’s box in which he was beaned by now-teammate Alfredo Aceves 12 months ago. For the first time since taking a pitch below the left eye, Byrd had the chance to hit at Fenway, and showed no ill effects.
“You don’t ever want that to happen but it’s part of the game,” Byrd said. “Some guys get hit, some guys don’t. It happened to me. Hopefully, it doesn’t ever happen again.”
Byrd says he couldn’t be happier to have found a new home at Fenway.
“Wonderful, wonderful. I always loved playing here. Usually, I get booed. The only cheers were when I got hit last year and I stood up and actually walked off the field. Other than that, it’s great. I love it. I got to hear “Sweet Caroline” again in a Red Sox uniform and it didn’t feel weird singing it.”
|What to do with Aaron Cook, Daisuke Matsuzaka and other Red Sox notes||04.30.12 at 8:21 pm ET|
With a May 1 deadline looming on a major league option, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Monday that if the Red Sox decide to promote righthander Aaron Cook, he will begin in the team’s bullpen. Valentine said he met with general manager Ben Cherington earlier in the day Monday to discuss a possible landing spot for him on the big league 25-man roster.
“Ben was in this afternoon,” Valentine said. “We talked again on that. I’m sure he has all his ducks in order and again, I don’t know exactly when, why, how, these deadlines and all that. Everyone’s opinion has been shared.”
If the Red Sox select him, Cook will receive $1.5 million. If they don’t he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Valentine made it clear that if the team promotes him by Tuesday, he will come out of the bullpen, despite going 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts for Pawtucket this April.
“I haven’t talked to him so I can’t speak for him,” Valentine said. “When he throws his sinker, it’s a real good pitch. A lot of hitters hit the top of it. He didn’t pitch that well [in spring training], but when he was throwing well and had that sinker, I really liked it. It’s a little different pitch than many people feature. Competitiveness, he works quickly, he fields his position, has game presence, all that good stuff. I like that, too.”
Asked about how he would manage Cook and use him out of the pen after making a series of starts for Triple-A Pawtucket to start the season, Valentine admitted he’d have his hands full.
“I think it’d be challenging,” Valentine said. “Right now, I couldn’t say it would be anything other than [relief pitching].”
Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to make his next rehab start this Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket. It will be his third of the spring after starts for Class A Salem and Double-A Portland.
“Depending on the weather, we’re trying to make a plan so in case there’s bad weather, he doesn’t get off schedule,” Valentine said Monday.
Last Saturday, Matsuzaka faced 17 hitters over 4 2/3 innings, Matsuzaka allowed one run on three hits and two walks, while striking out seven (all swinging), in a game the SeaDogs won, 9-1, at Hadlock Field in Portland. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bobby Valentine: ‘I didn’t have a major plan’ for losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Bailey||at 7:08 pm ET|
No one would come down hard on the Red Sox skipper for losing his starting center fielder and leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury when Reid Brignac fell on his right shoulder on April 13, partially dislocating it.
But Valentine came down hard on himself Monday for not being prepared to deal with the Ellsbury and Bailey injuries and the struggles of set-up man Mark Melancon.
“I’m reading reports every day,” Valentine said when asked a simple question about the bullpen roles coming together. “I have the to ‘D’ ABCD plans, the what-ifs. You try to have what-ifs. To tell you the truth, I didn’t have what-ifs at the beginning of the season and I’m kicking myself for it.
“The outfield and the bullpen. I didn’t have a major plan for not having Ellsbury. My fault. I should’ve. And two-deep in the bullpen, the two guys we traded during in the wintertime, I figured one of them would be pitching in the ninth inning come April 13th.”
The bullpen is coming off a seven-game stretch in Minnesota and Chicago where the ERA was 1.06, allowing just two earned runs in 17 innings, striking out 13 in the process.
After the disaster of April 21, the 15-9 debacle against the Yankees, Valentine said he’s finally adjusted to adjusting on the fly.
“Absolutely, that’s what we’re doing, that’s what I’m doing,” Valentine said. “And you have to have plans. I’m kicking myself a little. I didn’t have a great plan. But it’s coming into fruition now. On the fly, the plan seems to be working.”
|Dustin Pedroia: ‘I’ll talk to Bobby and we’ll figure it out’||04.16.12 at 11:38 am ET|
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia came to teammate Kevin Youkilis‘ defense prior to Monday’s early game against the Rays, following manager Bobby Valentine‘s critical comments about the third baseman Sunday.
“I know that Youk plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life,”Pedroia said. “I have his back, and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do. But that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.”
[Click here to hear Dustin Pedroia’s full comments.]
Added Pedroia: “We’ve got Youk’s back. He’s played his [butt] off for us for a long time. Anytime he steps on the field, he’s a great player. We’re here to win, and we’re here to win with him.”
Asked if he thought Valentine’s comments could have been meant as a motivational tool, Pedroia didn’t sound impressed.
“Maybe in Japan or something,” he said, referring to Valentine’s stint as a manager there. “Over here in the U.S., we’re on a three-game winning streak, we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we’ve just got to get each other’s backs and play together. Because if you don’t do that, I don’t care what sport you’re playing, you’re not going to win.”
Pedroia said he had not yet talked to Valentine about the issue.
“I’ll talk to Bobby and talk to everybody,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
|Bobby Valentine has every intention of improving the outfield arms||02.28.12 at 3:47 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox held their first formal workout inside the brand new jetBlue Park Tuesday morning as manager Bobby Valentine threw and batted balls off the left and right field walls to simulate cutoff plays and throwing in the park that has the identical outfield dimensions as the club’s Fenway Park home.
Valentine said he is making a point this year of improving outfield defense and throwing strength, trying to improve the throwing arms of all of his outfielders.
“Part of the program today was cutoffs and positioning with our relays,” Valentine said. “This is our ballpark and we’re going to play at least 81 games in it and it’s great to have it and practice in. So, because there are a couple of nooks and crannies that are particular to ours, I think, obviously, our cutoffs and relays are a little different at times so, it’s good.’
Eight-time Gold Glover Dwight Evans paid a visit to Red Sox camp on Tuesday.
“I’d love to talk to Dwight about that,” Valentine said. “He’s one of the good men. And, I hear [Carl Yastrzemski] comes to camp, too. I hope I can get him over. There hasn’t been an invite out only because I didn’t know he’d be down here.’
While Valentine was poking fun at Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for fighting the now-retired Jason Varitek, Valentine took a shot at another Yankee, Derek Jeter, and his famous cutoff play near the plate that resulted in a crucial put out of Jeremy Giambi in Game 4 of the 2001 ALDS.
‘We’ll never practice that. We’ll never practice that. I think the ball gets him out if he doesn’t touch it, personally. But the Jeter-like simulation today is the idea what the first baseman and third baseman do as the ball is coming in.’
Outfield prospect Che-Hsuan Lin has already impressed with his arm in the outfield in workouts.
‘I know we have one outstanding thrower according to [outfield instructor/first base coach]Alex Ochoa, and it’s not Alex and he was an outstanding thrower. Lin is in a different place. From reports, a couple of the arms are a little lower on the rating scale, and we’re going to try to adjust for that.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox react to retirement of Jason Varitek||at 10:17 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news spreading of the retirement of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek on Thursday, the players he leaves behind in the clubhouse began to react on Tuesday.
‘It was awesome being a part getting to play four seasons with him and being able to throw to a guy that everybody is going to remember as the captain of the Boston Red Sox. It was a good time for everybody. I hope his decision makes him and his family happy and they go with their lives and know that he was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate.’
What he learned from Varitek:
‘How to pitch. He’s a guy that you know when you’re on the mound and you shake him off and he sort of just stares at you, you’re like, ‘OK, I won’t throw that pitch. Don’t worry about it.’ Especially being a young guy coming up and you’re already intimated by just pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway and then you have Jason Varitek catching you.
‘How to slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball.
What he remembers about Varitek calling the no-hitter of Sept. 2, 2007 vs. Orioles:
‘A couple of times, early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit and they were caught but after that, it was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to throw what he puts down.’ The game started to speed up on me a couple of times. I remember him calling timeout, running out there and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch wherever, down and away, get a ground ball and get out of an inning. That’s what I’ll always remember about him, he was always the guy that could always calm you down when he things were starting to speed up.”
Did he expect Varitek to show in camp?:
‘He’s an animal. You see how every year he comes into spring training, what he looks like, how his body is a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome behind [the plate] and still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball but that was his and his family’s decision.’
‘He meant a lot obviously. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before, he was trying to recover from injury so we didn’t get to spend a lot of on-field time together but still picking his brain a lot. But last year, [he] was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. And just the person he is, you can’t find a better person.
‘Just the way he went about his business, watching him. Wasn’t even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that.’
What Varitek did for helping him lead the Red Sox pitching staff:
‘I was definitely a little hesitant. I didn’t know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked toward him, ‘Get this meeting started, get this started.’ But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn’t expect that, didn’t expect him to be so helpful and [tell me], ‘Hey man, this is your team.’ I said, ‘You’re the captain, it’s your team.’
“That’s the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help me out, stuck up for me and I can’t thank him enough for jump-starting my career.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|David Ortiz isn’t worried about snitching in the Red Sox clubhouse||02.27.12 at 10:05 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — After an extensive interview with Dennis & Callahan Monday morning, David Ortiz stood in the Red Sox clubhouse and said he isn’t worried about a repeat of the snitching that Josh Beckett told Rob Bradford occurred last season.
“I’ve got no problem,” Ortiz said when asked about his comfort level with his current teammates. “I come here to play baseball. [Snitching] ain’t something I worry about.”
Ortiz also told reporters he’s confident that the front office has done what’s necessary to clean up the atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“Hopefully, as an organization they take care of business with that. If you do the right thing, you’re not going to be [a problem].”
|Jacoby Ellsbury has his goals and the 2012 AL MVP might just be one||02.26.12 at 4:42 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking publicly to the Boston media for the first time since Detroit’s Justin Verlander narrowly edged him out for the 2011 American League MVP, Jacoby Ellsbury said Sunday that he admits he was a little disappointed that the best year of his career so far didn’t result in winning the award.
“Well, we’re playing against the best competition in the world,” Ellsbury said. “Obviously, I did everything I could, left it all on the field last year. When I found out about the results, I was happy for Justin Verlander but at the same time, being as competitive as I am, I wish I would’ve won. I bet if you ask all those other guys, they would say the same thing, too. That’s how I look at it, we’re playing against the best players in the world, definitely held my head high and finished second.”
Ellsbury hinted that that award might be one of the goals he’s setting for himself this season as he looks to follow up a season in which he batted .321 with 32 homers while driving in 105 runs.
“I went into my workouts how I went about it last year and made goals for this coming season,” Ellsbury said. “I think the biggest thing is to continue what I’ve been doing. Those goals, I always say at the beginning of the year, I revisit them throughout the season. They’re personal goals. I’m just excited for coming into this season.”
In edging out Ellsbury, Verlander became the first starting pitcher in 25 years to be voted Most Valuable Player, adding it to the Cy Young Award he also captured.
Verlander earned the American League MVP honor, receiving 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Ellsbury was second with four first-place votes and 242 points, followed by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista with five first-place votes and 231 points, Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson with 215 and Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera with 193.
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